And then there were 12. The Liga MX regular season has now officially finished, leaving six teams knocked out of the running for the 2022 Clausura title. For those remaining, the top four in the league table will automatically qualify for the quarterfinal playoff stage, while spots five through 12 will battle it out in a single-leg preliminary play-in (repechaje) round.
In case you missed the final weekend of the regular season, here's a quick wrap-up on those invited to the Liguilla, those missing out, and other additional notes from Week 17 of the 2022 Clausura.
Pachuca, Tigres, Atlas, America book top-four spots
Under the leadership of manager Guillermo Almada, Pachuca were attack-minded, efficient in the final third and excellent at winning duels in the regular season. Los Tuzos maintained a top two spot through the last 12 matchdays before eventually securing their place at first, despite seeming to take their foot off the gas a little too much during Sunday's unexpected 2-0 loss to Pumas. A sign of more problems to come?
Tigres, who finished second in the table, kept pace with Pachuca as the joint-top scoring teams in Liga MX with a total of 30 per club. Nonetheless, there were few Tigres fans who were thrilled with the latest 1-1 draw with Atlas last Saturday. Without injured striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, Tigres struggled with breaking down Atlas' backline and weren't able to find the back of the net until they scored off a penalty in the 92nd minute. They'll now head into the playoffs with two losses, a draw and an unknown timeline for Gignac's return.
As for Atlas, who slightly struggled mid-way through the season before eventually sneaking into third place, the defending champs were unlucky to close Week 17 out without a victory against Tigres. They aren't the most threatening attacking side in Liga MX, but as seen in their 1-1 draw on Saturday, their defensive organization and efforts from Camilo Vargas in net will be more than enough to help them make a deep playoff run.
And yet, they'll also unfortunately be without the weekend's goalscorer, Jairo Torres. Earlier this year, Major League Soccer side Chicago Fire FC announced that they would bring in the player once the Liga MX regular season was over.
Lastly from the top four, there's one of the stories of the season through Club America. Once last in the table after Week 9, the Mexico City giants were immediately revived under interim manager Fernando Ortiz. A 0-0 draw with rivals Cruz Azul wasn't the most exciting result on Saturday, but it ensured a seven-game undefeated run before the playoffs and a spot in the quarterfinals.
Puebla stumbles, joins Chivas among eight play-in sides
Fifth-place Puebla led by coach Nicolas Larcamon, will be absolutely gutted that they aren't in the top four. One single point from their final three games would have secured a quarterfinal invitation, but instead, the "Larcaboys" earned three consecutive losses, the last of which was a 2-1 defeat by Mazatlan on Friday. As for Los Cañoneros, they'll breathe a sigh of relief after cementing the 12th and final playoff position. Their reward: A rematch against Puebla in the play-in round.
Outside of Club America, an argument could be made that Chivas are the most in-form team in Liga MX. Also under the charge of an interim manager, Los Rojiblancos earned their fourth win in a row and a spot at sixth place after defeating Necaxa 1-0 away from home. Chivas will face Pumas in the play-in round while Necaxa, in ninth place, will enter the play-in stage against Cruz Azul.
Speaking of eighth-place Cruz Azul, Los Cementeros have sadly continued to look fairly average in 2022. Still going through a championship hangover from last year, the Mexico City club were second-best in the 0-0 Clásico Joven with Club America over the weekend and have just one win in their last seven games in all competitions.
Monterrey sit above them at seventh place in the standings after a 2-0 victory over Club Tijuana. The result, which included a first goal of the year for former Tottenham Hotspur striker Vincent Janssen, seemed to mark a turning point for the once underwhelming side that then launched 26 shots against Xolos. A potential run towards a title begins with a play-in match against San Luis.
In 10th place, the ever-mercurial San Luis lost 3-1 at home to Santos Laguna on Sunday. Difficult to predict and at times far too reliant on their star names who can be just as erratic, San Luis failed to get anything past Santos goalkeeper Carlos Acevedo in the defeat.
Pumas, in 11th place, earned one of the more dramatic results of the weekend. In what initially seemed like a near-impossible task, Pumas needed a win against first place Pachuca to secure a playoff spot. Keep in mind, they also needed to balance out their roster ahead of Wednesday's upcoming second leg of the 2022 CONCACAF Champions League final against Seattle Sounders FC.
Pumas' altered and young XI held their own against Pachuca, and then when starting striker Juan Dinenno came off the bench in the second half, he needed just nine minutes to score twice and clinch a stunning 2-0 win.
Juarez secures dubious fine, last-place spot
Although Leon (13th place) and Toluca (15th place) closed out the regular season in a brilliant 4-4 draw, the result was a bittersweet one for both teams that desperately needed three points. Leon needed a win to move into a playoff position and Toluca aimed for the three points in order to avoid the fine for finishing in the bottom three of the aggregate 2021-22 table.
Queretaro (16th place) were able to narrowly avoid the aggregate bottom-three fine with a 4-0 thrashing of FC Juarez (18th place). FC Juarez had a dismal end to the season with no playoff spot to fight for and no way of evading the overall cellar position.
Elsewhere, Santos Laguna (14th place) were one point shy of a playoff spot despite beating San Luis 3-1, while Club Tijuana (17th place) join Queretaro and Juarez in the bottom three of the Clausura season.
As such, Juarez will pay 80 million pesos ($3.49 million USD) for their overall last place finish under the league rules, with Tijuana paying 47m pesos ($2.29m USD) and Toluca paying 33m pesos ($1.61m USD).
- The Liguilla play-in round begins this weekend for the teams finishing within spots five through 12. Each series will be a one-legged match hosted by the higher seed. The two-legged quarterfinals will then begin next week.
- The 2022 CONCACAF Champions League will wrap-up this Wednesday night. MLS side Seattle will host Pumas after a 2-2 draw in Mexico City last week. Liga MX sides have gone 13 consecutive seasons with a CCL title, a record that climbs to 16 trophies when counting the precursor Champions' Cup era.
- Club America announced last Monday that they'll face Manchester City in a July 20 friendly at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.